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Jetpac

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Released: 1983

Genre: Shoot-'em-up

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Ultimate Play The Game

Developer: Ultimate Play The Game

Submitted by: Retro Gamer

Some people get upset when we don’t make references to Ultimate when we talk about Rare. The truth of the matter is that Ultimate and Rare are two separate companies, despite the fact that one obviously wouldn’t have existed without the other. Still, we appreciate that, for some, Rare and Ultimate will be forever linked with each other, so here’s a look at the game that started the ball rolling and turned a two-brother team into one of gaming’s most well-known developers.

It’s fair to say that for this particular ten-year-old, Jetpac was a revelation. I’d often pop round my friend’s house and watch, bored, as he tapped out type-in programs on his ZX81; all this changed, however, when he upgraded to his Spectrum. It was like the creation of the universe.

All of a sudden, home gaming not only made sense, but could be just as good as the games I used to enjoy playing in the arcades when I was occasionally allowed to go to them – don’t forget, I was still only ten.
Ultimate’s Jetpac changed all that, as it was perfect proof that fast-paced arcade-style games were possible on seemingly crusty computers. I was hooked on the adventures of Jetman, and it would be the first game, along with the excellent 3D Deathchase, which you’ll find given its dues on page 90, that we’d load up whenever I visited Paul’s house.

Even today, Jetpac is a wonderfully slick piece of coding. Granted, the gameplay is simple – assemble a space ship, fill it with fuel, then repeat ad nauseam – but it’s so beautifully crafted and so tight that a five-minute play soon turns into an hour-long marathon. Little wonder, then, that it was the first and only game in the Ultimate back catalogue that Rare ever remade, in the form of Xbox Live Arcade’s excellent Jetpac Refuelled.

While Jetman went on to star in several more adventures from Ultimate and Rare, nothing ever came close to his original outing for me, and it’s a game that I return to again and again and again.

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